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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Israel admits air attack on Syria

Until now, Israel had refused to confirm or deny that any air attack had taken place [GALLO/GETTY]

Israel has confirmed that its air force carried out an air raid inside Syrian territory in September - after remaining silent on the issue for nearly a month.

Israel said on Tuesday that its warplanes had conducted the attack deep inside Syrian territory on September 6, saying it attacked a "military target".

Israeli radio reported: "The military censor has authorised for the first time the publication of the fact that Israeli combat planes attacked a military target deep inside Syrian territory on September 6."

David Chater, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said: "The [Israeli] military censors had no other option but to admit the attack took place because the Syrian president yesterday went on record to say the Israelis had indeed attacked a target in northern Syria - what he described as an unused military base."

Chater reported: "No other details about the scale of the mission, the intent or what intelligence it was based on have been released."

Israeli military censors continue to withhold details, but Damascus says

at least four Israeli warplanes crossed into Syria in the incident.

Syria says its air defence systems confronted Israeli aircraft, which subsequently bombed an area inside the country.

Media speculation

With the Israeli blackout on information in place, most of the speculation on the raid has come from foreign media.

Some US officials have linked the raid to suspicions of secret nuclear co-operation between Damascus and North Korea.

Chater said: "Press speculation - in the foreign press, not in the Israeli press - has said perhaps there was nuclear technology imported from North Korea."

A North Korean ship was reported as docking in Syria a few days before the attack happened.

"This kind of speculation is bound to increase now," said Chater.

Both Damascus and North Korea have denied any nuclear ties, with Syria accusing Israel of spreading what it describes as false reports as an excuse for war.

Faruq al-Shara, the Syrian vice-president, said on Saturday that the raid was meant to provide justification for future aggression against his country.

"Those who continue to talk about this raid and to invent inaccurate details are aiming to justify a future aggression [against Syria]," he said at a press conference.

Some earlier reports had suggested that the raid may have targeted Iranian arms bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Syria has filed a formal complaint with the UN over the air raid, which has raised tensions between the two countries which are still formally at war.

Peace talks between the two powers collapsed in 2000 over the scope of an Israeli pull-out from the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967.

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